A few framing thoughts before our Lenten Journey: In the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, the second movement or “week” is spent walking closely with Jesus as he ministers in Galilee. This movement invites us to get to know the human Jesus, to observe what he does and how he responds to the people and situations around him. We try to enter these stories either as observers or participants. Getting to know Jesus in this very real way helps foster intimacy as we accompany him during Holy Week.
One thing to notice as you observe Jesus: he pays attention. He makes himself available. He doesn’t always assume he knows what is needed, but he sees and touches both the joy and the brokenness in those around him. Try this Lent to pay attention to the people and situations around you. But more importantly, allow Jesus to touch you in your brokenness and joy. He invites you to come along and learn. Take him up on the invitation!
Sunday, February 11
“A leper came
to Jesus and begged him…" If you wish, you can make me clean." …he
stretched out his hand, touched him, and said… “I will do it. Be made
Today’s Provision: Touch. A loaded word. With pandemics and sexual abuse always in the news, we avoid touching anyone other than those closest to us. But Jesus’ ministry was not just about physical touch. We tend to focus on the miracle stories of the curing of disease and not as much on his ministry of touching through empowerment: Zacchaeus up hiding in his tree, the Samaritan woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, the crowds who hear the Beatitudes.
We know loneliness and isolation is rampant in our communities and that people often hide their brokenness. So, let’s learn from Jesus. As you go about your day, pay attention. Look for opportunities to “touch” others with your smile, your greeting, your willingness to listen. If you are one in need of comfort, pray for Jesus to touch you and allow you to open yourself to his touch from others.
Monday, February 12: “The
testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be
perfect…lacking in nothing. …the one who doubts is like a wave of the
sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind”
Today’s Provision: Resilience. I never miss the opportunity to remind people that when you see the word “perfect” in the New Testament, the root Greek word is teleion, which is closer to our translation of mature. Perseverance and resiliency are both signs of maturity. Resiliency is something I stress with parents of young children. Let them learn—before their adolescent angst kicks in—about coming back from failure. We need to let them fail in small ways, so when the inevitable failures happen as they grow, they know what it means to persevere and bounce back. I think we all would do well these days to focus on this provision. If you are struggling with any issue, be it personal or global, rely on faith in God’s power and mercy, to “accept the things I cannot change, and change the things I can” (Reinhold Neibuhr).
Tuesday, February 13:
“God is not
subject to temptation to evil…Rather, each person is tempted when lured
and enticed by his desire” (Jas
1:12-18). “Give us
rest from evil days” (Ps 94).
Today’s Provision: Pay Attention. I love this story. It’s a good reminder when I’m feeling high and mighty about something and God gives me a sharp jab to the ribs: “Get over yourself, sister!” It is good to pray for rest from evil, but make sure to allow for that rest. There is a lot of focus on evil out there. This Lent, consider fasting from the newsfeed, or at least from looking at it more than once a day. Pay attention to things that tempt you to dwell in darkness.
Wednesday, February 14: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them…pray in secret…anoint your head and wash your face” (Mt 6:1-6, 16-18). Jesus is, of course, talking about our intent, not our actual actions. He performed righteous deeds in front of others all the time (even though, initially, he wanted to keep them quiet). He went off by himself to pray, but his disciples knew exactly what he was doing. The only time we hear of him fasting is in the desert after his baptism, and we hear Friday what he thinks about fasting. When we perform righteous deeds in public, but without any fanfare or implied judgment, we give an example to others, just like Jesus did.
Today’s Provision: Why do you do what you do? Some people perform righteous deeds because Jesus tells them to. Others do them because they want to go to heaven. Some give out of their need to give. Yes, there are those who do it for the accolades or to assuage guilt. And there are those who give simply out of the goodness of their hearts. I’m not being judgmental—clearly, the world would be a much better place if everyone gave to others, regardless of their motivation! But think about this question as a prayer exercise: what was Jesus’ motivation? Why did Jesus do what he did? How can he be a model for us and how we give? (Reflect: In keeping with our Lenten theme, Jesus spends, not money, but his time paying attention and filling the real needs of others. What does that mean for you?)
Thursday, February 15:
“The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected…and be killed and on
the third day be raised. “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must
deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”
Today’s Provision: Choose—at least for today. In the OT reading, Moses presents the people with a choice: life by following God’s commands or death by rejecting them. Jesus’ words seem to present, at least on the human level, the opposite: choose to die with him following his commands in order to live. Pray with that. This choice is not a one-and-done, not even for those who have opted to forego living in the secular world. It is a conscious choice we make each day: “Jesus, I desire to die to myself today so that I can better follow you. Please give me the grace and courage to do so.”
Friday, February 16 “Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance: That a man bow his head like a reed and lie in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?” (Is 58:1-9). Oooh, I love it when God talks like this, especially when God talks to me this way! I don’t see it as God’s judgment, but a wake-up call. The God of the OT also gets exasperated when I fail to “get it,” which is a lot of the time—IF I am not paying attention.
Today’s Provision: Ask God what fast He wishes from you. “Well, I don’t want to trouble God about things like this. I will go ahead and pick my own fast for today.” That is so much easier, isn’t it? What if you were to start each day with a simple request: “God, make me pay attention today. Grant me the grace to see the fast you wish from me.” Keep a record in your journal and see if a pattern is developing. It can be very enlightening!
Saturday, February 17: Jesus
saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to
him, "Follow me." And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed
him (Lk 5:
Provision: Extend/accept the invitation. Do you know
any Levis? People who seem to remain outside? There are those who choose
to and we respect their wishes. But we can usually tell if someone
doesn’t think they are worthy or capable of being included. Try reaching
out and inviting them in. Be patient. Change rarely happens as quickly
as it seems it did for Levi. Do you consider yourself to be a “Levi?”
Please note that Jesus calls Levi right where he is, right in the midst
of his sinful activity. He doesn’t have to purify himself or do some
involved penance. He just has to say yes. God comes to each of us as
we are, where we are. Accept the invitation.
Elaine Ireland has a passion for working with parents and anyone who struggles to maintain a sense of God’s love and peace amid the day-to-day challenges of life. She has a master’s degree in Spiritual and Pastoral Care from the Pastoral Counseling department at Loyola, Maryland, with a focus on developmental psychology and spiritual guidance. Rooted in Ignatian spirituality, she is a writer, retreat and workshop leader, and presenter on topics such as pastoral parenting, “letting go,” and finding the spiritual in the midst of everyday life. She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland with her husband, Mark and children, David and Maggie.
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